Emergency Medical Doctor: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an emergency medical doctor. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career as an emergency medical doctor. View article »

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  • 0:03 Be an Emergency Medical Doctor
  • 0:57 Career Requirements
  • 1:33 How to Be an Emergency Doctor

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Video Transcript

Be an Emergency Medical Doctor

An emergency medical doctor works in a hospital emergency room and treats patients who have been involved in an accident or suffer from an acute illness. Because patients are often dealing with life-threatening conditions, emergency medical doctors must make immediate decisions and determine how to best save lives. Emergency medical doctors perform medical procedures and they also refer patients to specialists for further treatment.

The potential for high pay is present in a career as an emergency medical doctor. These doctors work in hospital emergency rooms, standing and moving on their feet for long hours. Hours are often irregular and will likely include nights and weekends. Emergency rooms are high-energy, fast-moving places, which can translate as stress for doctors.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Doctoral degree
Degree Field Medicine
Licensure and Certification State-issued medical licensure is required, American Board of Emergency Medicine certification is voluntary, but employers typically hire board-certified doctors
Experience Emergency medicine residency, one to two years of experience working in an emergency room
Key Skills Manual dexterity, patience, empathy, and skills in communication, critical thinking, and leadership; expertise in the use of medical and diagnostic equipment
Salary (2015) $197,700 per year (Mean salary for all physicians and surgeons, which includes emergency medical doctors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015), Jobs advertised on Monster.com (October 2012)

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How to Be an Emergency Doctor

What do I need to do to become an emergency medical doctor?

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Medical schools require students to have bachelor's degrees, although degrees do not need to be in pre-medicine or the sciences. As long as students have completed prerequisite courses in biological and physical sciences and mathematics, medical schools will consider transcripts from applicants.

You will want to volunteer while you are in college. In addition to performing well in school and having high academic marks, volunteering in medical settings may improve a candidate's chance for admission. According to Princeton University, prospective medical students may benefit from having experience interacting with patients.

You will also want to prepare for and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT is universally required for admission to medical schools. Students may take the MCAT up to three times a year. Test preparation tips and practice tests are available online.

Step 2: Attend Medical School

Students can attend a traditional medical school program or an osteopathic medicine program. Both programs are four years in length. Students take part in clinical rotations, which are short practical experiences in a variety of areas of medicine, such as obstetrics, surgery, and emergency medicine. In the fourth year of school, students may apply for residency programs.

Step 3: Complete a Residency Program

Emergency physician residency programs typically last three to five years. Residents work in different areas of emergency medicine, such as cardiac, pediatric, and intensive care units. Residents learn emergency medical skills, such as how to read radiologic studies and how to evaluate chest pain. After the residency, emergency medical doctors can become board certified.

Step 4: Obtain Licensure

Medical doctors must obtain licensure in order to practice. Students take either the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA). Both the USMLE and the COMLEX-USA are multi-part exams that ensure that doctors have the knowledge and skills to practice medicine and treat patients. The first parts of the exams are taken during medical school and the final parts of the exams are completed after medical school. After passing a licensing exam, physicians must apply to their state boards of medicine to obtain their licenses.

Be sure to maintain your license. In order to continue to practice, all physicians must maintain their state-issued medical license through meeting continuing education and practice requirements.

Step 5: Become Board Certified

The American Board of Emergency Medicine offers certification to doctors who specialize in emergency medicine. To earn certification, applicants must pass a qualifying exam and an oral certification exam. Certification must be renewed every ten years.

Emergency medical doctors treat patients who have been in an accident or suffer from an acute illness. They have doctoral degrees, licenses, and expertise with medical and diagnostic equipment. And they earn a mean annual salary of $197,700.

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